Brewing 100% Kona Coffee K Cups
Hualalai 100% Kona Coffee Single Serving Cups are so popular because they eliminate the need for you to measure out the right amount of coffee grounds to get that perfectly balanced taste that you love. With Hualalai 100% Kona Coffee Single Serving Cups, you can produce the perfect coffee within a moment, even when you are in a rush to get to work. Just drop in a k- cup into your brewer and you are done. Need to make a couple of cups for your family?
As a twenty-something Bostonian in 1992, John Sylvan didn’t have a particular passion for coffee. But he was drinking 30 to 40 cups a day. He had to drink that much because, intent on starting his own business, Sylvan had left his menial office job and become his own test subject for coffee—which was at times barely palatable—that he could produce via a homemade pod device.
Sylvan was certain there was a market for a better, more customized, more liberating caffeine experience than the tepid office percolator, run by vendors with a corner on the market for delivering terrible coffee en masse. Once he had a design that worked, he looked up the word excellence in Dutch—because “everyone likes the Dutch”—and he and his college roommate Peter Dragone named their new company Keurig.
The machines are not too expensive as appliances go. You can get one for $63; a bargain for a taste of the good stuff. But once you have one, it has you, too. The cups contain a mere 11 grams of ground coffee, vacuum-sealed in nitrogen to prevent oxidation. K-Cups are extremely profitable, selling standard coffee grounds for around $40 per pound. But what are you going to do, not buy the refills for your machine?
And when the pertinent K-Cup design patents expired in 2012, and the market was suddenly flooded with off-brand competitors, the company created a second-generation (2.0) machine that would only function with Keurig-brand cups. It’s digital rights management, the coffee equivalent of Steve Jobs’ attempt to fill iPods only with music sold through iTunes. That might seem like a reasonable, defensible move to protect intellectual property and keep a corner on the market—except that some of the competition’ cups are nearly completely biodegradable or reusable. Which does little to deflect the growing criticism that Keurig Green Mountain is not seriously prioritizing sustainability.
Keurig Green Mountain is secretive about how many K-Cups the company actually puts into the world every year. The best estimates say the Keurig pods buried in 2014 would actually circle the Earth not 10.5 times, but more than 12. The company would only tell me that last year they sold 9.8 billion Keurig-brewed portion packs—which include the new multiple-cup pods.
And because the K-Cup is made of that plastic integrated with a filter, grounds, and plastic foil top, there is no easy way to separate the components for recycling. A Venn diagram would likely have little overlap between people who pay for the ultra-convenience of K-Cups and people who care enough to painstakingly disassemble said cups after use.
Still the Internet is littered with stories of personal revelation that pod accumulation can’t be a good thing. “I wouldn’t describe myself as the most environmentally conscious person,” writes one user on the food blog Chow, “but as I emptied the K-cup bin at work this afternoon, it occurred to me that this is quite the waste.” A commenter on another site describes the unsettling experience of regularly walking to work in a financial district past a dumpster full of coffee pods every day.
“Where we live the recycling programs are quite good,” Hachey explained to non-Canadian me, “so you become accustomed to recycling everything.”
Hachey and colleagues were embattled every time they finished making a cup. “We didn’t like having these little pods that we couldn’t just easily open up, compost the grounds, and recycle the plastic,” he explained. Even for the employees who were willing to take the time to separate the lid, remove the paper filter, and compost the grounds, the local recycling facilities were struggling with the cups falling through sorting grates.
Keeping the video anonymous was only part of Egg Studios’ strategy to create buzz on social media, which led to some news write-ups. After the first week, Egg Studios sent out a press release claiming ownership of the video, and Hachey did some subsequent radio and TV interviews. He even talked with a Singapore newspaper. (There are no Keurig machines in Singapore.) The Edmonton Waste Management Centre called the studio to say they had found that coffee pods account for fully one percent of their waste. Hachey has six brand-new coffee presses sitting on his desk, unsolicited gifts from companies that appreciated the video, one signed “P.S. We hate K-cups, too.”
“I think they’re pretty pissed off about the video,” he admitted. “As a corporation, you can no longer just sit in your office and hope that no one comes and pickets in front of your door. Now we do the same thing through content that can have an even bigger impact on bottom lines.”
One of the most famous cases of consumer empowerment through viral videos was 2009’s “United Breaks Guitars,” in which musician Dave Carroll sang about how United Airlines broke his Taylor guitar and denied claims for reimbursement. Shortly after the video swept the Internet, United stock fell dramatically. One analyst estimated that the incident ultimately cost shareholders $180 million. The video has now been seen 15 million times on YouTube. For that kind of exposure, I imagine many aspiring musicians would be willing to watch their guitars get broken.
Environmental awareness is never a bad thing, but how warranted is the fear and outrage that these pods have spawned? And if the little cups are so bad, what is the best way for a reasonable person to acquire coffee? To get that taste of liveliness, and, for at least one moment each day, feel uniquely lucid and ambitious, even excited about work, without the creeping guilt that you and your habit are but little drags on this majestic planet?
“If you ever find yourself throwing out a K-Cup, and then you remember that 13 billion went into landfills last year, do you feel okay contributing to that?” said Hachey. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Does it? The statistic in Kill the K-Cups about the pods circling the earth 10.5 times is now widely cited. The dramatic imagery came from a popular 2014 Mother Jones article by Maddie Oatman—which has now been passed 95,000 times on Facebook. That article borrowed the statistic from a book called Caffeinated, which was written by none other than Murray Carpenter, the journalist who initially raised the concern about K-Cups in the Times in 2010.
For one, pod machines save electricity in that they are not constantly working to keep a pot warm. And proponents of K-Cups argue that people are extracting coffee from the grounds more efficiently. “The 11 grams of grounds in a K-Cup are utilized more efficiently than when I throw a handful of ground coffee into my Melitta filter in the morning,” Carpenter noted. Indeed, Monique Oxender made the same point in defense of her product.
Commercial brewing at places like Starducks is efficient in that way, except that many people use a new cup every time they go, and recycling rates are less than perfect. There is also the energy cost of transportation to and from said Starbucks. Thinking about all of this has been almost enough to make me feel like every coffee method is so far from perfect that I should just give up entirely.
Carpenter pointed me to one life-cycle analysis that found the most sustainable approach to daily coffee was actually, yep, instant coffee. And it’s unlikely that many people will switch to instant, or abandon coffee altogether in favor of caffeine pills or energy drinks—which usually also contain excessive sugar, and where much of caffeine is synthetically produced in Chinese factories that Carpenter has described as “sketchy.” So the demand for a quick, easy, customizable, single-serve delivery mechanism will march on.
“I told them how to improve it, but they don’t want to listen,” John Sylvan told me. “There’s a much better way of doing it.” He paused.